Celebrating Bravery: June 1st, 1813Don’t Give Up the Ship

June 1st is an important day in American history that commemorates the bravery of midshipmen during the War of 1812. On this day, a group of young midshipmen aboard USS Chesapeake refused to surrender their ship to heavily outnumbered British ships. The phrase “Don’t Give Up the Ship” became synonymous with courage and determination in the face of adversity. This event also highlighted the importance of naval forces in protecting merchant ships from British attacks during the war.

The significance of this day was further amplified when Captain James Lawrence uttered these words before he died in battle against HMS Shannon, a British ship, in September 1813. Today, we honor those who fought for their country and refused to surrender, even when faced with overwhelming odds against the British squadron. Let us never forget the valor and sacrifice made by these brave American sailors on June 1st, 1813, as they defended their merchant ships from the British ships.

The Story Behind the Phrase “Don’t Give Up the Ship”

Origins of the Phrase

“Don’t give up the ship” is a phrase that has become synonymous with courage and determination in the face of adversity. It was coined by Captain James Lawrence during the War of 1812, a conflict between American ships and the British squadron. One notable event was the battle between the American frigate Chesapeake and a British fleet.

Lieutenant Captain Lawrence was in command of the USS Chesapeake, a frigate that had been commissioned by the United States fleet to protect American shipping interests during the civil war. The ship’s motto was “Free trade and sailors’ rights,” which reflected the belief that American ships should be able to trade freely with any nation, without interference from foreign powers.

On June 1st, 1813, the American frigate Chesapeake, part of a squadron of ships, encountered HMS Shannon, a British warship that had been sent to intercept the fleet. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, Captain Lawrence ordered his crew to engage in battle.

The Battle

The battle between the two frigates was fierce and brutal. Both sides of the civil war fleet suffered heavy casualties, but ultimately it was HMS Shannon, under the command of Lieutenant Jones, that emerged victorious. The Chesapeake was captured by British forces, and Captain Lawrence himself was mortally wounded in battle.

As he lay dying on his frigate’s deck, Captain Lawrence uttered his now-famous words: “Don’t give up the ship.” These words were both a command to his crew to continue fighting for the United States’ cause and a rallying cry for all Americans who believed in their nation’s strength.

True Meaning of “Don’t Give Up the Ship”

The true meaning behind Captain Lawrence’s words is one of perseverance and determination in leading American ships. As a commander and lieutenant of a squadron, he knew the importance of not giving up and never surrendering or abandoning his ship or cause, no matter how dire the circumstances may seem.

This sentiment has resonated throughout history as a symbol of courage in times of adversity for the United States. It has been used as an inspiration for soldiers going into battle as part of a squadron, athletes facing tough competition, and everyday people struggling through difficult times. Captain Broke even found solace in these words during his naval battles.

In fact, “Don’t give up the ship” has become so iconic that it has been used in popular culture, including movies, books, and even political campaigns. The captain broke his sword rather than surrendering, inspiring his squadron of men to fight on for the United States.

The Impact of Captain James Lawrence’s Use of the Phrase on Navy Culture and Its Continued Relevance Today

A Rallying Cry for the Navy

On June 1st, 1813, during the War of 1812, Captain James Lawrence, commanding a squadron of United States men, uttered his famous words, “Don’t give up the ship,” as his crew fought valiantly against a British vessel. Although Lawrence ultimately lost his life in battle, his words became a rallying cry for the Navy and an enduring symbol of perseverance.

Part of Navy Culture

Over two hundred years later, the legacy of “Don’t give up the ship” lives on in United States Navy culture. The phrase, famously spoken by Captain James Lawrence before he broke through the enemy squadron, continues to inspire men and women in uniform to persevere through difficult times and to remember the bravery and determination of those who came before them.

The legacy of Captain Lawrence lives on through this phrase, which has become synonymous with the spirit of the United States Navy squadron. It serves as a powerful reminder that even in moments when things seem impossible or hopeless, there is always hope.

Inspiration and Motivation

The continued relevance of “Don’t give up the ship” can be seen in how it inspires and motivates sailors in the United States today. From basic training to deployments overseas, this phrase is used to encourage sailors to push themselves beyond their limits and to never lose sight of their goals.

For example, during boot camp, recruits are pushed physically and mentally beyond what they thought was possible. In these moments when they feel like giving up, drill instructors use “Don’t give up the ship” as a way to remind them why they joined the Navy in the first place and what they are fighting for.

Similarly, during deployments overseas where sailors may face dangerous situations or prolonged periods away from loved ones, this phrase serves as a beacon of hope. It reminds them that their sacrifices have meaning and that their efforts are making a difference.

The Misconceptions and Myths Surrounding the Phrase “Don’t Give Up the Ship” and Their Accuracy

The Origins of the Phrase

The phrase “Don’t give up the ship” is often attributed to Captain James Lawrence, who reportedly spoke these words during a battle with HMS Shannon on May 25, 1813. However, this is not entirely accurate.

In reality, Lawrence borrowed the phrase from his dying friend and fellow naval officer, Oliver Hazard Perry. Perry had used these words as his personal motto after losing his ship in Lake Erie in September 1813. When Lawrence was mortally wounded during the battle with Shannon a few months later, he reportedly uttered Perry’s famous words before succumbing to his injuries.

The Context of the Words

Another common misconception about this phrase is that it was spoken on board the USS Chesapeake during its ill-fated encounter with HMS Shannon. In fact, Lawrence spoke these words on board another ship – the USS Niagara – during a later engagement in Lake Ontario.

Despite its origins and context being somewhat different than popularly believed, “Don’t give up the ship” became an enduring rallying cry for American sailors throughout the War of 1812.

Other Famous Naval Slogans

However, it’s worth noting that this wasn’t the only or even necessarily the most significant rallying cry used by American sailors during this time period. There were several other slogans that were just as memorable and inspiring:

  • “We have met the enemy and they are ours”: This quote comes from Oliver Hazard Perry’s official report to General William Henry Harrison after defeating a British fleet in Lake Erie.

  • “I have not yet begun to fight”: These words were famously spoken by John Paul Jones during a battle with HMS Serapis in September 1779.

  • “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”: Admiral David Farragut reportedly said this while leading his fleet past Confederate mines during the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864.

The Legacy of “Don’t Give Up the Ship”

Despite the inaccuracies surrounding its origins and context, “Don’t give up the ship” remains a powerful and enduring symbol of American naval heroism and determination. It has been used as a slogan by various organizations and causes over the years, including sports teams, political campaigns, and even NASA’s Mars rover mission.

One possible reason for its lasting popularity is that it encapsulates a universal human desire to persevere in the face of adversity. Whether on land or at sea, in war or peace, we all face challenges that threaten to defeat us. But by remembering Lawrence’s final words – “Don’t give up the ship” – we can find strength and inspiration to keep fighting until victory is ours.

The Heroic Actions of Captain James Lawrence and His Crew Aboard the USS Chesapeake During the War of 1812

Captain James Lawrence and the USS Chesapeake

On June 1st, 1813, Captain James Lawrence led the USS Chesapeake into battle against a British squadron. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, Lawrence and his crew fought valiantly on the quarterdeck of the frigate Chesapeake. However, the battle resulted in a victory for the British, with Lawrence being mortally wounded and his crew captured.

“Don’t Give Up the Ship”

Lawrence’s dying words “Don’t give up the ship” became a rallying cry for American ships during the rest of the War of 1812. This phrase served as a reminder to American sailors that they should never give up hope or surrender their ships to enemy forces.

The Impact of Lawrence’s Words

The impact of Lawrence’s words was felt throughout the remainder of the war. American ships continued to fight bravely, even when faced with overwhelming odds. In some cases, merchant ships were armed with cannons and joined in battles alongside naval vessels.

One notable example is that during Civil War, Union Admiral David Farragut used this phrase as his own personal motto. He had it sewn onto his flag and would often shout it out during battles to encourage his men to keep fighting.

Legacy of Captain James Lawrence

Captain James Lawrence’s legacy lives on today through various memorials and monuments across America. There are several schools named after him in different states across America, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York.

There is an annual commemoration called “Don’t Give Up The Ship Day” held on June 1st each year at Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore. This event honors not only Captain James Lawrence but also all those who have served in defense of America throughout history.

The USS Chesapeake

The USS Chesapeake was a frigate in the United States Navy during the War of 1812. It was built in Boston and launched in 1799. The ship saw action during the Quasi-War with France and the First Barbary War before being captured by the British in 1813.

After its capture, the Chesapeake was taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where it was used as a training vessel for British sailors. It was eventually sold for scrap in 1820.

The Naval Act of 1794 and its impact on the development of the US Navy

The United States Navy has a rich history that dates back to the founding of the country. One crucial piece of legislation that helped to establish the US Navy as a permanent naval force was the Naval Act of 1794. This act authorized the construction and supply of six frigates, which were instrumental in early successes against the Royal Navy.

The Continental Navy

Before the establishment of the US Navy, there was a Continental Navy during the American Revolution. However, after gaining independence from Britain, Congress disbanded this navy due to financial difficulties. It wasn’t until 1794 when Congress passed what is now known as The Naval Act.

Authorization for Construction and Supply

The most significant aspect of The Naval Act was its authorization for construction and supply. Six frigates were to be built: USS Constitution, USS President, USS United States, USS Chesapeake, USS Congress, and USS Constellation. These ships were designed to be fast and powerful with heavy armaments capable of taking on any enemy vessel they encountered.

The construction process was not without challenges; however, it ultimately led to an increase in shipbuilding capabilities in America. These frigates proved their worth in battle against British vessels such as HMS Guerriere and HMS Java.

Creation of New Officer Positions

Another important aspect of The Naval Act was its provision for creating new naval officer positions. This allowed for more people to join the navy and receive training in naval warfare tactics. With more officers available, there was also increased potential for growth within the navy.

Impact on Future Growth and Development

Overall, The Naval Act had a significant impact on future growth and development within the US Navy. By establishing a permanent naval force with powerful warships and trained officers, America could protect its interests at sea while also projecting power abroad.

The act also helped to establish a strong foundation for the future growth and development of the US Navy. As America continued to expand its naval capabilities, it became a dominant force on the world stage, with an ever-increasing presence in international waters.

The Legacy of “Don’t Give Up the Ship Day” and Its Celebration in Modern Times

Every year on June 1st, the United States Navy celebrates “Don’t Give Up the Ship Day.” This day honors the legacy of Captain James Lawrence and his flagship, the USS Chesapeake. The story of this ship has become a legend that continues to inspire generations.

The Story Behind “Don’t Give Up the Ship”

During the War of 1812, Captain James Lawrence was given command of the USS Chesapeake. His mission was to protect American trade and maintain peace at sea. On June 1st, 1813, while engaging in a battle with HMS Shannon off the coast of Boston Harbor, Lawrence was mortally wounded. As he lay dying below deck, he gave his final order: “Don’t give up the ship!” Despite his efforts, however, HMS Shannon captured USS Chesapeake.

Although Lawrence did not succeed in his mission to protect American trade and maintain peace at sea, his words became an inspiration for future generations. They have been used as a rallying cry for sailors facing adversity ever since.

How “Don’t Give Up the Ship Day” is Celebrated

“Don’t Give Up the Ship Day” is celebrated annually on June 1st to honor Captain Lawrence’s legacy. Here are some ways in which this day is celebrated:

Wreath-Laying Ceremonies

Wreath-laying ceremonies are held at various locations across America to pay tribute to Captain James Lawrence and his crew. One such location is Trinity Church in New York City where there is a memorial hall dedicated to him. At this event, wreaths are laid on behalf of President Biden and other high-ranking officials.

Another location where wreath-laying ceremonies take place is the USS Constitution Museum in Boston. This museum houses a replica of the ship that broke through a British blockade during the War of 1812. The “Don’t Give Up the Ship” flag is hoisted on this day to commemorate Lawrence’s final words.

Naval War College Museum

The Naval War College Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, houses artifacts related to Captain Lawrence and his mission on the USS Chesapeake. Visitors can see a hatchway from the ship’s deck and a flag that flew on board during battle.

USS Constitution

The USS Constitution is another important part of “Don’t Give Up the Ship Day” celebrations. This ship was launched in 1797 and played an important role in American naval history. On June 1st, she participates in the celebration by hoisting the “Don’t Give Up the Ship” flag.


“Don’t Give Up the Ship Day” is a reminder of the bravery and determination of Captain James Lawrence and his crew aboard the USS Chesapeake during the War of 1812. The phrase “Don’t give up the ship” has become an enduring symbol of Navy culture, inspiring sailors to persevere in difficult situations. Despite misconceptions about its origins and meaning, this phrase continues to hold relevance today as a call-to-action for all those who serve in the US Navy.

To honor Captain Lawrence’s legacy, we can continue to celebrate “Don’t Give Up the Ship Day” each year on June 1st. By remembering his heroism and that of his crew, we can inspire future generations to embody the same spirit of determination and sacrifice.


Q: What was Captain James Lawrence’s role in naval history?

A: Captain James Lawrence played a significant role in naval history as commander of the USS Chesapeake during the War of 1812. He is best known for his heroic last words, “Don’t give up the ship,” which have become a symbol of Navy culture.

Q: What is “Don’t Give Up the Ship Day”?

A: “Don’t Give Up the Ship Day” is celebrated annually on June 1st to honor Captain James Lawrence and his crew aboard the USS Chesapeake during their battle against HMS Shannon in 1813.

Q: How did Captain Lawrence’s use of “Don’t give up the ship” impact Navy culture?

A: Captain Lawrence’s use of “Don’t give up the ship” inspired a sense of determination and perseverance among sailors that continues to this day. It has become an enduring symbol of Navy culture, representing courage, resilience, and unwavering commitment.

Q: What was the Naval Act of 1794?

A: The Naval Act of 1794 was legislation passed by Congress that authorized funding for the construction of six frigates, including the USS Chesapeake. This act was a crucial step in the development of the US Navy.

Q: How is “Don’t Give Up the Ship Day” celebrated today?

A: “Don’t Give Up the Ship Day” is celebrated by Navy personnel and their families with ceremonies, parades, and other events that honor Captain Lawrence’s legacy. It serves as an opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who serve in our nation’s military.

Q: What can we learn from Captain Lawrence’s bravery and determination?

A: Captain Lawrence’s heroism reminds us of the importance of perseverance in difficult situations. His example inspires us to never give up in our own lives, no matter what challenges we may face.

Q: How can I get involved in celebrating “Don’t Give Up the Ship Day”?

A: You can get involved in celebrating “Don’t Give Up the Ship Day” by attending local events or participating in online discussions about its significance. You can also show your support for Navy personnel by donating to organizations that provide assistance to veterans and their families.